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The Whole Ground of the Discipline

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The Whole Ground of the Discipline

The other day, a question was posed in a Zen forum I frequent. It is, in fact, the only Zen forum I frequent, for reasons that will be clarified as we go on. The question was essentially, what factors in life enable some people to actually DO Zen practice and not just intellectually analyze it?

Reflecting on my own experience, I found found Zen practice through the martial arts.  My story was not an uncommon one, with several others commenting similar experiences.  My journey began with Matsubayashi-ryu Karatedo and continued on when I received my first copy of the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, which begins and ends with Zen.

In the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee states, "Learning techniques corresponds to an intellectual apprehension of the philosophies in Zen, and in both Zen and Jeet Kune Do, an intellectual proficiency does not cover the whole ground of the discipline.  Both require the attainment of ultimate reality, which is the emptiness or the absolute.  The latter transcends all modes of relativity."

You can certainly have an intellectual apprehension of the martial arts. You can read books on it. You can watch YouTube tutorials and try to teach yourself complicated techniques. You could hang a heavy bag in your garage and swing at it. You can join on-line forums on social media and argue about pointless topics like whether Bruce Lee could beat Mohammed Ali in a fight or whether Krav Maga is better than Aikido. You may actually come to know a lot about martial arts.

But you won't be a martial artist. Knowing about martial arts will not be thing that saves your life when faced with a well-trained opponent.

Or you could shut up, find a coach, sensei, sifu, or teacher and train.

You could immerse yourself day in and day out in a rigorous lifestyle of continually refining your abilities and facing challenge after challenge.

You can read countless books about Zen. It's worth noting that many of the most famous books about Zen are written by people whose experience with Zen practice is spurious at most. You could meditate by yourself and have all sorts of fun experiences. You could discuss Zen in on-line forums with people who probably don't have any more experience with actual Zen practice than you do. Or you could log off, put the book down and find a Zen teacher, sit down, shut up, and actually learn how to DO Zen.

It's worth noting that Bruce Lee himself may have only had an intellectual apprehension of Zen.  His library on the topic was impressive, including books by Rinzai Zen master and Japanese sword teacher, Omori Sogen, as well as the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng.  He also included more popular works written by Western authors with little actual Zen training, such as Alan Watts.  There is no evidence that Bruce Lee himself ever entered into a student-teacher relationship with any Chan, Rinzai, Soto, or Seon teacher in order to learn how to actually DO Zen.  Regardless of this fact, he wrote frequently of Zen and spoke of the path of Jeet Kune Do in Zen terms.

Where in your life do you know ABOUT something, but have never actually experienced it for yourself?


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